We here at Church Marketing Sucks are incredibly pleased to announce our second annual pre-Buzz Conference interview with Mark Batterson! Last year we introduced you to Batterson and Buzz, and we gave you a couple recaps of just what went down at the conference.
This year, they’re gearing up to give the Conference another go. This year’s conference will be held at Ebenezer’s, the coffee shop location of National Community Church. The conference will be in Washington, D.C. from June 28-29, and the spots are nearly filled.
Mark bleeds creativity and innovation, and luckily, we got a chance to speak with him over e-mail. Here’s what he had to say regarding Buzz:
I have 200 bucks. Should I come to Buzz or put an iPhone on layaway?
Mark Batterson: Depends on the color of the iPhone. If they don’t have your color, it’s a no-brainer. Buzz! (Editor’s note: Anyone who monitored the continuous updates of Steve Jobs’ keynote speech at MacWorld San Francisco knows the iPhone only comes in black. Apparently, Batterson has some job that keeps him busy.)
For someone who has never been before, what exactly is the aim of the Buzz Conference?
Batterson: We’re focusing on three themes this year:
- decoding culture,
- cultivating creativity,
- and creating buzz.
Think of decoding culture as a form of incarnation. If we’re going to reach our culture, we must learn the language. Pastors need to think like missionaries! We’ll talk about some ways to exegete culture so that we’re dialed into the wavelength of the unchurched and dechurched.
One of our core convictions at NCC is that the church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. There is incredible latent creativity in every congregation. We’ll talk about how to cultivate creativity and give share some practical tips on how to increase your creativity quotient.
And then we’ll talk about creating buzz. That may sound gimmicky, but we’re driven by the command in Luke 14:23 where we’re called to compel people to come in. We’ll talk about ways to create buzz–everything form servant evangelism to video production to sermon branding to internal marketing.
I’m pretty confident that attendees will walk away with half a dozen church-changing ideas that they can implement in their unique ministry context.
So last year you taught us how to create Buzz. In a year, have the methods really changed enough to merit a new conference?
Batterson: It was our first conference last year. We had no idea what we were doing. Wait. Did I just say that? No, we’re not offering any refunds from Buzz ’06.
Seriously, I think we learned some lessons in ’06 that will help us in ’07. We’ve also got a new lineup of speakers including Craig Groeschel from Lifechurch.tv in Oklahoma City. We’ll definitely hit on some of the same themes, but from different angles. It’s all fresh content and new sessions.
How much has writing In A Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day influenced the Buzz Conference? Or are they two totally separate monsters?
Batterson: They are two different monsters, but I would say that hosting the Buzz Conference was definitely a wild and crazy lion chase! I don’t think any church every feels qualified or ready to host a conference. As if we have everything figured out. But we really feel called to be a “teaching church” and share the things we’re learning from our successes and failures. So we chased a lion and the conference sold out in 2006. And we’re almost sold out for 2007.
What went into the decision to meet at Union Station this year, instead of going with a larger venue?
Batterson: We decided to keep the event at Union Station because it was more organic. It just felt like the conference ought to be in the same venue where we have church. The downside is that it limits the number of attendees, but we just felt like it was more authentic to who we are. So we opted for authenticity over numbers. I don’t want to grow the conference at the expense of the conference if that makes sense.
You’ve blogged before about the spirituality of space, how does this come into play in planning a conference?
Batterson: I think that’s why we kept the conference at Union Station. We’ve also decided not to have lots of “bells and whistles” at Buzz ’07. We just want to share who we are. What better place to do that than one of our venues. I also think its easier for churches to visualize the way we do church when they are actually in the space. Church planters and multi-site churches will resonate with the venue.
A year ago, we asked what technologies you were most excited about. You named blogging and podcasting. Another year passed, what new technologies are you most excited about?
Batterson: Blogging and podcasting. It’s funny that blogging and podcasting are almost considered “old-school” now, but I love the way they leverage our message. In terms of numbers, blogging is by far the most influential dimension of my ministry. I’m more excited about digital discipleship than I was a year ago.
I think there are evolving technologies on the horizon that may eclipse podcasting and blogging, but these technologies fit my personality and approach to ministry. We just need to keep redeeming technologies and using them for God’s purposes!
What’s the most outlandish, sweetest church marketing move you heard of this year? Actually, top three.
Batterson: Love the use of microsites. Such a great way to brand a sermon series. We did a series called chasethelion.com last year where we posted our series trailer, videos and transcripts. A cool way to drive traffic. Love some of the microsite series like “ihatemymarriage.com” or “mylamesexlife.com” or “mysecret.tv”.
I think the simplest ideas are often the best ideas. Love the use of “political yard signs” by churches. It can be done in an annoying and distasteful way of course, but it can also create buzz. It’s those simple ideas that are great. Also heard about a church that bought an ice cream truck and uses it for community outreach. Ice cream marketing. Brilliant!
For what it’s worth, I think the most creative churches are new church plants we’ve never heard of. They are creative because they have to be. It is a survival instinct.
You commented on our site a few weeks ago. How has that added to your celebrity status?
Batterson: Changed my life. Part of my 15 minutes of fame. I guess with this interview, I’ve used up most of my 15 minutes. It’s all downhill from here!